Thematic blocks

In this edition the annual IOPD Conference will have three main thematic blocks:

You can keep up to date with speaker confirmations through our News Section and in the Conference Newsletter.

Below we list the overall contents of each Itinerary.

Direct Democracy

A democratic town or city is one that invests in improving its channels of participation in the three dimensions of the democratic system: representative, direct and deliberative.

Direct democracy is the dimension of the political system that allows citizens to participate directly in the taking of institutional political decisions by means of a free, universal and secret vote that can, for example, be exercised in referendums, binding citizens’ consultations, the revocation of mandates or plebiscites.

This direct dimension is essential in a democratic system. A democratic town or city must be able to provide its citizens with these channels for participation and decision making. Without this type of expression of the citizens’ political will the democratic system would be incomplete.

In this Itinerary there will be a discussion of themes such as the following:

Citizen Initiative

On numerous occasions channels of participation are triggered in response to institutional initiatives on the part of local governments, although this on its own is not enough. The other necessary motor is that of citizen initiative, in order to compensate for any lack of interest or commitment on the part of the institutions in relation to specific aspects. Moreover this also allows for the balancing of the exercise of power, while also making it evident that citizens have the power to promote public actions and influence the political agenda.

As we see it, citizen initiative is the energy that is capable of promoting processes with a political impact. In this sense, it is not just a question of collecting signatures in order to present proposals to public institutions, by means of formal processes, rather it includes the capacity of citizens’ organisation, within the context of the reference communities, to promote political changes in relation to specific questions, to participate in governance and the management by citizens of public resources, and can even lead to a change in the model of the relationship between citizens and formal institutions.

In order for citizen initiative to be an instrument that can have a positive effect on local democracy, it is essential for the citizens to be active, for civil society to be vibrant, with community empowerment acting as a key element with regard to the actions taken by the public institutions. Moreover, by way of citizen initiative, not only is it possible to establish a political agenda that is more plural and complete it is also, depending on design, possible to contribute to the empowerment of both citizens and the community, as well as constant political debate. Thus, the relationship between citizen initiative and community empowerment is a circular one.

Moreover, everybody has had experience of practices involving active communities that have ended up producing alternative models of governance, based on the idea of public assets or commons. These community practices, on a day-to-day basis, look after take care of resources, based on the logic of non-mercantile cooperation, in spheres such as the public arena, cultural amenities, housing, mobility, food, leisure or consumption, among others. In these cases public institutions and citizens collaborate in decision making with regard to the use and management of the resources themselves.

This is why citizen initiative is not merely a motor for the political agenda; rather it can also play a significant role in the construction and improvement of the community itself, and can even serve to redesign the relationship between citizens and public institutions.

In this Itinerary there will be a discussion of themes such as the following:

Ecosystems of inclusive democracy

The drive for inclusion in political participation represents the constant desire to transcend a status quo that attempts to limit or hamper the participation of persons who, because of their characteristics or situation, encounter greater difficulties in doing so. The rebellion against this status quo forces local governments to be proactive in their search for more suitable channels when it comes to favouring participation for all.

A local democracy of quality cannot be built on the basis of homogeneous channels of participation, as if the population as a whole had the same profile or were of the same type. What we need are instruments that adapt to the nature, diversity and plurality that can be found in our towns and cities. All instruments have their benefits, but also their limitations, favouring some groups more than others, resulting in political decisions of better or worse quality, providing people with more or less motivation to participate, etc.

This is why it is essential to think of local democracy as an ecosystem in which different kinds of mechanisms and instruments coexist and interact. The priorities are threefold: firstly, to include new participation mechanisms, depending on needs and context; secondly, to design each local democracy instrument in terms of its interaction with the others; and thirdly, to legislatively regulate these mechanism and interactions, including not only the specific design of the instruments but also their control procedures and evaluation mechanisms.

In this Itinerary there will be a discussion of themes such as the following: